Sylvia Plath’s shocking, realistic, and intensely emotional novel about a woman falling into the grip of insanity.
Esther Greenwood is brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under—maybe for the last time. In her acclaimed and enduring masterwork, Sylvia Plath brilliantly draws the reader into Esther’s breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes palpably real, even rational—as accessible an experience as going to the movies. A deep penetration into the darkest and most harrowing corners of the human psyche, The Bell Jar is an extraordinary accomplishment and a haunting American classic.
The Bell Jar is not for the feint of heart. It looks closely at depression, suicide, psychiatric care, and a woman’s role in society. Ester is an intelligent young woman at the beginning of a potentially fulfilling life when she descends into madness after being confronted with societal expectations of herself versus her own goals and ambitions.
I immediately connected with Ester, an ambitious young woman at the beginning of a promising life when everything she thought she knew about who she is and wants is questioned. The scene that resonated with me the most was when her boss was asking her what her plans for the future were to which she replied she didn’t know, but, in fact, she did know. This may seem like a harmless slip of the tongue, but it’s so much more. It’s the beginning of her frustration with her ambitions versus what society expected of her in the 1950s.
There are a lot of moments in this novel that clearly demonstrate where Ester’s mind in terms of her mental health. They’re hard to read because of how raw and real they feel. Plath’s ability to pin point her emotions and transcribe them so eloquently to the page is truly remarkable.
Ester’s journey is an important one. I connected with it on almost every level and made me question my own choices in regards to society’s expectations of me and my future. This connection to Ester scared me because of how much of myself I seen in Ester. This connection is made even more powerful when considering The Bell Jar as an autobiography of Sylvia Plath herself and her eventual suicide.
Overall, The Bell Jar is a jarring read that will leave you emotionally drained. It’s definitely not for everyone, so be sure to reflect upon your own mental state before jumping into Ester’s.